Peldošā darbnīca nr. 659, which was moored permanently at the south part of Andrejsala and began to offer office space for creative agencies in June 2008, has a useful and intriguing facility. It’s a restaurant called Bufete (see map, No. 15). You can reach it by going downstairs but—weather permitting—the catering business also serves its customers under open skies on the deck, enabling a panoramic vista of the Daugava. Bufete operates between 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM. Where else in Rīga could you dine aboard a ship on any given day without buying a cruise ticket?
Back in the times when Peldošā darbnīca nr. 659 used to be a riverworthy transport vessel, the same room now housing Bufete already offered meals to the crew. You'll note how the interior design still preserves the style and character of years gone by. This atmosphere isn't an artificial re-enactment but rather a natural continuation of the life of the room plus its surviving furniture, we were told by Liene Jansone, the boss of Bufete. It's just been freshened up while remaining, to a degree, an authentic navigators' canteen. Of course, while refurbishing, the kitchen machinery had to be installed completely anew, as had the flooring. Otherwise, many of its fixtures—the finishing of the walls, ceiling, fluorescent lights and even some furniture items so typical of a canteen—look the same as a quarter-century ago, when the river barge was built. Crocheted tablecloths and vases with red flowers complement the interior, spelling out a romanticised and kitschy re-visitation of the so-called "socialist era".
Bufete's menu alters daily, often by improvisation and taking inspiration from what's available fresh on that day at the Rīga's Central Market combined with the facility's own stocks kept here in a fridge. Buying the ingredients at the market instead of a hypermarket makes a huge difference in terms of the palatability of the cuisine! The local chef, Liene, previously learnt and practiced her vocation in New York, where she had the position of a restaurant chef's aide. The result of such a fortunate combination is that the patrons of Bufete can partake in Liene's interesting cooking, including, but not limited to, chicken with vegetables in an Indian style, lasagne, burritos, etc. Also the prices seem commensurate. Early on a day, a breakfast special is available: an energising cup of coffee and a crunchy whole-food bar made of honey-roasted nuts, apricots, sesame and pumpkin seeds.
Liene Jansone says that Bufete gained popularity almost instantly. Many who first came here alone, next time brought along a bunch of friends or colleagues. You don't have to be an employee of an Andrejsala-based business to eat out at Bufete. Visit the legendary endroit and tell us if we were right. Daily information updates are just one click away. Sign up to the restaurant's mailing list at email@example.com and get an e-mail hint (in Latvian) about the menu of the day. And hey, there's a free Wi-Fi hotspot right here, covering the area in and around the floating building.
Remember: Andrejsala — Peldošā darbnīca nr. 659 — Bufete!